Know Your Role

A player was recently released from his NFL team and was quite shocked to receive his “pink slip” when it happened.  I happened to speak with this player once he returned home and he was perplexed as to how he could get released from his third team in his just his rookie year. He was practicing everyday. He was not injured. He was showing up to meetings on time. So how could the team release him?

I will tell you how and why.

A lot of young players who make it to the NFL do not have a true understanding as to how the “business” of the NFL works. The odds of reaching the NFL spotlight are very slim because there are a finite number of roster spots available, so these youngsters, who are so fortunate to make it to the spotlight, feel as though they have “arrived” and will be on the team for the next four-five years if not longer. This is usually very far from the reality. When a player is awarded a scholarship with the opportunity to play his beloved sport in college, he goes to class in the early part of the day and then attends practice later that afternoon. This has been his schedule for many years prior to college as well. So once a player achieves the highest professional level in sports he tends to associate that same felling with how life will be at the professional level once he ascends to that level, except that he will not have the school element in the equation and should therefore now be able to fully devote all of his time to his sport and anything else he wants to do outside of his professional sport and gets paid. This is another perception that is very far from the truth.

Young players in the professional ranks have a hard time understanding that their role of doing what is asked of them is just that –a role– that needs to be fulfilled like any other job.  Far too often young players want to tell the coach what or why they did something outside or beyond what was asked of them. This is one of the surest ways to get a player a pink slip out of the building. There is a fine line between giving solicit advice and adding unsolicited commentary.

When Jimmy Jonson was head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he released LB John Roper from the team for falling asleep in a meeting. The question was then posed whether or not he would have released QB Troy Aikman if he had fallen asleep in a meeting and his response was, “You think I’m going to cut Troy Aikman?” That just goes to show how unfair yet how real and different players who have different roles are treated.

What I am getting at is many young players feel as though they can do what many veterans can do and often times wind up getting themselves into precarious situations, because they forget they are there to play a role. The sooner a player learns and understands his role with the team, the better off he will be and will make a nice living for him in the long run.

 

The best way I ever heard it put was from a coach who stood up and said in front of his team and candidly stated, “There are three things that are important to me: my faith, my family, and football. What I am saying is this; you better put your family ahead of me, because I am going to put my family ahead of you.”

It don’t get no “realer” than that! (Yes, I know that is poor grammar, but it illustrates the point)

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